CT votes not to change constitution

November 4, 2008 9:49:10 PM PST
Voters in Connecticut decided Tuesday against holding a convention to amend the state's constitution, dealing a major blow to opponents of same-sex marriage. With 56 percent of votes counted, the question failed 60 percent to 40 percent.

Connecticut voters are asked every 20 years whether the state should hold convention during which delegates can rewrite the entire constitution. The last constitutional convention was held in 1965 to correct a flawed system of apportioning representatives to the General Assembly.

This time, proponents had hoped to change the constitution to allow citizens the opportunity to bypass the legislature and petition for changes in state law through direct ballot initiatives.

Proponents had hoped to use initiative and referendum to amend the state's eminent domain laws, cap property taxes, impose term limits, or impose mandatory life sentences for certain violent crimes.

But the biggest support for the question came from those who viewed a convention as the easiest path toward overturning last month's state Supreme Court ruling that found banning gay marriage unconstitutional. Connecticut is the third state, after Massachusetts and California, to offer gay marriage, with the first unions scheduled as early as Nov. 12.

"All of our joy had been a little bit tempered waiting for these results," said Anne Stanback, executive director of the gay-rights group Love Makes a Family. "You're going to see a lot of celebration tonight, and leading up to Nov. 12."

Supporters of the constitutional convention included Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has said citizens should have more opportunities for referendums, with thresholds and guidelines about what can be on the ballots.

Opponents included Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who argued a constitutional conventions would lead to "a costly open-ended free-for-all that could well be dominated by special interests."

He pointed out the constitution can be more easily amended through legislation. Any amendment needs a three-quarters vote of both General Assembly houses to go on the ballot, or a simple majority in two consecutive legislative sessions.

There have been 31 amendments passed since 1965, including one on Tuesday. It will allow people who turn 18 years old between the primary and general elections should be allowed to vote in those primaries.

With 54 percent of votes cast, voters were supporting the proposal 65 percent to 35 percent.


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